Fighting an uphill battle

I read a fascinating op-ed in the New York Times about John Borling. John was a prisoner in the notorious prison known as the “Hanoi Hilton” in North Korea. He was subjected to intense torture and often complete isolation. It was futile, yet he managed to grit through the experience and the subsequent failures after his liberation to learn the power of dogged perseverance.

A story that has stuck with John is Camus’s “Myth of Sisyphus”. In it, the hero is condemned by the gods to push a rock up a hill without ever making it fully to the top. It would roll down to the bottom, and had to be pushed back up the hill again with the same results over and over again. What’s interesting is the hero is ultimately a happy man.

Happiness is found in coming to terms with futility. That sounds counter intuitive, but in a broken world life is a series of hills we are asked to push a rock up. Unlike Sisyphus we make it to the top and see the rock roll down the other side, only to be lodged at the bottom of another hill. We push it back up and over and onto another hill and another and another. Coming to terms with the fact that life is a series of uphill battles requiring tough, tiring tasks is the first step to peace, not to mention tough mental fortitude, and the hope that we will, someday, conquer that final hill.

What hills are you pushing rocks up? What lesson was learned from the previous hill?

Posted in adaptation, Attitude, perseverance, resilience

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Jeff Vankooten is a speaker and author focusing on the power of resilience to effectively engage the challenges of change. He helps leaders, businesses, and organizations develop the skills necessary to thrive in an increasingly unpredictable business environment.
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